Just what is the gospel truth?
The gospel according to Mark was the first to be written – in Rome. The gospels of Matthew and Luke drew on material from Mark and were produced many years later. John was written even later in Ephesus towards the end of the first century CE (Common Era). Ephesus was one of the seven early churches to which The Revelation was addressed.
The Gospel of John is different from the others as it was written to be used in reaching out to non-believers, early on the Greeks being a particular target. By this time the early Christian Church was no longer reserved just for the Jewish. John’s gospel edits the earlier material and in its content proves to be much more spiritual than the other three.
As a result down the centuries it has often been in severe danger of being edited out of the Bible, perhaps to be downgraded to an apocrypha and included in just a few of the less-circulated versions of the holy book.
But what of the Gospel of Thomas discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945? Written in the first/second century CE, it is not a narrative like the four canonical gospels, instead it attributes 114 sayings to Christ, thirty-one of which have not appeared elsewhere. These are dismissed as being proto-Gnostic.
What of the number of Gnostic gospels that followed?
One was written in the 2nd century CE and attributed to Mary. But was this based on Mary the mother of God, or Mary Magdalene, who by other accounts did serve as a disciple? Part of the Akhmim Codex, it was discovered in 1896 within a 5th-century papyrus codex, . It also included other material – the Apocryphon of John, the Sophia of Jesus Christ and the Act of Peter.
The gospel of Judas was found in a leather-bound Coptic language papyrus during the 1970s, near Beni Masar, Egypt. It reports conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. A bishop in 180 CE had argued against it and it was relegated to apocrypha.
What of other editors? In his Easter letter of 367 CE, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of the books that would form the twenty-seven-book New Testament canon. What gospels were spiked to get to this format?
There are many others gospels of which we have recovered parts, or the whole document – but which is the Truth?
Now, imagine an unscrupulous American evengelical sect opportunistically exploiting this confusion! – excerpts from Gene Genie
Samuel Shepherd systematically breaks down his followers’ belief so he can inject his own prophecies:
‘Who among us here believes a single word of what we read in today’s newspapers? I have certainly never seen an article about me or our new religious order that is without error.
‘So what is it that makes us believe that the Bible, published so haphazardly and so long ago, could be any more accurate?
‘Today’s factual errors [in news] are published despite our current powerful libel laws and our country’s litigious nature; the very weaponry that I might choose to apply to remedy the misreporting of our Order. …Jesus Christ had no such litigious weapons.’